Friday, August 25, 2006

Reader's Diary #144- William Shakespeare: Othello (up to Act 5, Scene 1)

Some interpretations of Othello's villain, Iago see him as the devil himself. Certainly his seeming lack of a motive to create wrongdoing would indicate an evil presence. But is he supernatural or merely psychopathic? Despite Shakespeare's uncanny ability to have defined many of today's psychoses, long before they were actually labeled, I do think he was taking the more archaic view of evil. That is, I think he was trying to portray Iago's evil intentions as having a supernatural basis.

The way Iago manipulates Othello and others, often planting false ideas in their head, seems totally reminiscent of the proverbial "devil on your shoulder" often spoofed in cartoons. But more than that, Shakespeare seems to use a lot of demonic, or at the very least monstrous, imagery. When referring to the sex act, Iago calls it "the beast with two backs" (tee hee). He refers to envy as "the green-ey'd monster." When repenting his drunkenness, Cassio says (about wine), "Every inordinate cup is unblest, and the ingredient is a devil." There are many more such cases as well, but my favourite (because if you buy the "Iago as devil" theory, there's more than a touch of irony) comes from the opening scene when Iago says, "Zounds, sir, you are one of those that will not serve God, if the devil bid you."


Barbara Bruederlin said...

I plan to say zounds as much as possible tomorrow. What a great and underused word!

John Mutford said...

Talking like Shakespeare. Sounds like a song.

Anyway, I'm not sure. It might be a way to get beaten up.